Laurell AC, Blanco Gil J, Machetto T, Palomo J, Pérez Rulfo C, Ruíz de Chávez M, Urbina M, Velásquez N. Disease and rural development: a sociological analysis of morbidity in two Mexican villages. [ Enfermedad y desarrollo rural: un análisis sociológico de la morbilidad en dos pueblos mexicanos .] International Journal of Health Services 1977; 7(3):401-423.

Objectives: Comparative study of two rural Mexican villages displaying different degrees of development, to understand the impact of such development on morbidity and the influence of socio-economic conditions on the distribution of disease in the population.

Methodology:Comparative study involving both qualitative and quantitative methods, including questionnaires, focused interviews, participant observation, and review of secondary data.

Results: The study found that morbidity was significantly higher in the village that was characterized as developed than in the village which maintained a predominantly subsistence economy. This finding was explained by the nature of rural development in Mexico , which was similar to that in other dependent countries. The change from an agricultural subsistence economy to one based on commercial production, in an unstable market, involved a massive conversion of peasants into salaried workers, whose employment was unstable and subject to extensive migration. This phenomenon produced worse living and working conditions for large groups in the rural population.

The authors point out that development in itself does not produce a rise in morbidity, but the particular form which development assumes in dependent countries exerts an important impact. The study also demonstrated that socio-economic characteristics, such as relative position within the chain of production, the particular sector of economic activity, and migration patterns define groups of high and low morbidity more clearly than do health conditions and access to healthcare. The results suggest that the success of public health activities depends on the possibility of planning economic development.

Conclusions: This study provides important data for understanding the place of workers in production as a determining factor of health conditions. As such, health conditions cannot be explained purely as a function of socio-economic variables but instead require a theoretical framework and methodology, elements necessary to understand the complex process of health and disease.

Copyright 2007 University of New Mexico